'Local food- nutraceuticals': bridging the gap between local knowledge and global needs

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Heinrich, M, Nebel, S, Leonti, M, Rivera, D, & Obón, C 2006, ''Local food- nutraceuticals': bridging the gap between local knowledge and global needs' in M Heinrich, WE Müller & C Galli (eds) Local mediterranean food plants and nutraceuticals, Forum of Nutrition, vol. 59, Karger, New York, pp. 1-17.

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Peer Reviewed



Food use is changing very fast all over the world. This and other changes (e.g. reduced physical activity, increased longevity) result in novel health risks for the populations in European countries and beyond. Also, in recent decades the convenience food market has grown dramatically and offers novel opportunities for small and large industries alike. Simultaneously, there is a dramatic and irrevocable loss of the local knowledge which forms the basis of many cultural traditions (traditional food knowledge - TFK). The Mediterranean region is well known for a dietary tradition commonly called ‘Mediterranean diet(s)’, which is renowned for health benefits based among others on widely consumed foods and beverages. While the focus of research has mostly been on the more widely used elements of the Mediterranean diets (especially olive oil and red wine), in this review the focus is on ‘local food’. These are ingredients, which are gathered, grown or produced locally and prepared into dishes, which often represent local specialities. Such food is derived from animals, fungi and plants, but in this paper the main subject is food of botanical origin. Particularly important among these local foods are vegetables and salads derived from wild greens (gathered food plants - GFPs) and local cultivars of fruit trees and shrubs. In this review we discuss the theoretical basis (including the concept of traditional knowledge systems) and general approach of an EU-funded multidisciplinary ethnobotanicalpharmacological project focusing on the use of such local resources in several regions of the Mediterranean including the ethnobotanical documentation of food products of selected communities in southern Italy, Spain, Greece (mostly Crete), the identification of extracts/pure compounds (leads for new health food supplements) with potent activity on a series of in vitro targets, especially ones relevant to assess for antioxidant activity, the more detailed in vivo study of some lead extracts and lastly the dissemination of such TFK in local/national languages.

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